Louis Kahn Exhibition Opens This Week

Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Raymond Meier)

Architect Louis Kahn — the subject of a major retrospective at Fabric Workshop and Museum — was as enigmatic as he was distinctive. Born in Estonia and based in Philly, Kahn was known for creating stark, imposing, modernist buildings that are sprinkled around the world: California, Texas, India, Bangladesh. Sadly, only few of them landed near his hometown (among them, UPenn’s Richards Medical Research Laboratories and the Wharton Escherick Studio in Malvern).

“Kahn gave us a remarkable string of masterpieces that includes the Salk Institute and the Kimbell Art Museum, and yet he was one of those shambling geniuses whose life was a mess of contradictions,” Inga Saffron wrote the New York Times earlier this year. Read more »

A Room of One’s Own

Illustration by Melissa McFeeters

Open-plan main floors have been so popular for so long with both builders and buyers that anything else is hard to find — at least, in new or newly renovated homes. “I think open plans have been desirable for buyers here because homes are so narrow. They allow for the best entertaining,” offers Kelly Straka, owner of interior design firm Lux-Living and builder-broker Custom Philly Homes. And if the slew of house-flipping, home-improvement and house-hunting shows on HGTV is any guide, it’s not just Philly: All the world loves (and wants) an open floor plan.

Or … does it? Read more »

Vandal Destroys Union League Steps Overnight [UPDATED]

Union League steps - railing destroyed - CBS 3 cameraman filming

A CBS 3 cameraman films the steps of the Union League, which had a railing destroyed overnight | Photo: Dan McQuade

UPDATE 10/25: Police just released surveillance footage of the suspect. Click here to see the video.


An apparent brass thief destroyed part of the steps of the Union League this morning.

Per the League’s spokeswoman, Erica Martin, at 3:02 a.m. a man was spotted ripping the brass railing off the steps on the right side of the buildings’s Broad Street entrance. Read more »

Jawdropper of the Week: A Renovated Beauty in Roxborough

8520 Hagys Mill Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19128

8520 Hagys Mill Rd, Philadelphia, PA 19128 | TREND Images by Drew Callaghan Photography via Long & Foster

This week’s Jawdropper is defined by the views it offers, both inside and out. Everywhere you turn you can find a breathtaking sight, be it of the backyard, the kitchen, the master bedroom or the patio. This Italianate stone home, built in 1865, has been through massive renovations and additions but still has the historic stone exterior.

One thing that is pretty cool about the layout of this house is that it’s essentially two separate wings. You can tell from the driveway, as there are two very distinct two-level portions of the home that are separated by a one-story front entryway. Since there are these two wings, there needs to be some way to connect them. This house does that with a heated cobblestone breezeway that perfectly encapsulates what you would want out of an old home with modern renovations. Read more »

High Art: Q&A with Rooftopping Photographer Christopher Olstein

Rooftopping photographer Christopher Olstein (right) enjoys the view.

Rooftopping photographer Christopher Olstein (right) enjoys the view.

Most of us spend our days looking up at the skyline of Philadelphia, but what if we could get on top of some of the city’s most iconic buildings and structures and have a look around? That is the goal of the “rooftopper,” a type of urban explorer that has been in the news recently thanks to nauseating feats like this one atop the world’s second tallest building and also some attempts that, tragically, didn’t turn out quite as well. We caught up with Philadelphia rooftopper Christopher Olstein, who publishes the photographs from his elevated missions on Instagram. (A gallery of his photos appears after the interview.)

What possessed you to start rooftopping?

Instagram, actually. I was seeing a lot of people doing it in Manhattan, which is such a dense, tall city with so many different places to go and capture different views. And so I thought it would be interesting to see what kinds of views I get in a city like Philadelphia. Read more »

Spotted: Philly’s Cityscape Captured Through Paper Sculptures

A photo posted by Drew Leshko (@drewleshko) on

Philadelphia-based artist Drew Leshko is doing something really cool. Using paper and wood, he carves, cuts, and layers the materials to create replicas of buildings, news stands, and other features in his neighborhood. His raison d’être? His artist statement makes it clear:

… Leshko creates documentary studies of architecture from his neighborhood in an attempt to create a three dimensional archive of buildings that are in transitional periods. The work examines gentrification and history, how historical relevance is determined, and most importantly, what is worth preserving.

The paper sculptures – done at a 1:12 scale, we might add – are crafted from observation and photographs, with Leshko not shying away from minute details like city detritus and acid rain deposits. We’ve included photos of some of his pieces from his Instagram below, although you can see eleven of the seventeen in person.

Read more »

John C. Anderson Apartments Wins National Architecture Award

John C. Anderson Apartments during its grand-opening celebration last winter. | Photo by HughE Dillon

John C. Anderson Apartments during its grand-opening celebration last winter. | Photo by HughE Dillon

Philadelphia’s only senior LGBT housing center, the John C. Anderson Apartments, was just named one of 10 winners of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2015 Housing Awards. The awards recognize the best in housing design across the nation. More on the awards and their criteria from a release I received this afternoon:

Now in its 15th year, the Housing Awards program promotes the importance of good housing as a necessity of life. The winning projects are located across the country—from New England to the West Coast. The jury recognized projects in four award categories: One/Two Family Custom Housing, One/Two Family Production Housing (none selected this year), Multifamily Housing and Special Housing. Importantly, several of this year’s honorees are affordable housing developments, like the John C. Anderson Apartments.

Read more »

Nathaniel Popkin and Diana Lind on Architecture

Nathaniel Popkin and Diana Lind at Penn's Fisher Fine Arts Library. Photograph by Justin James Muir

Nathaniel Popkin and Diana Lind at Penn’s Fisher Fine Arts Library. Photograph by Justin James Muir

NATHANIEL: The Athenaeum made both of our lists of favorite buildings in Philadelphia. What is it you like about it?

DIANA: The Athenaeum is like a bunch of other buildings in Philadelphia I adore: They’re set in time. They feel completely separate from what’s going on a couple blocks away on 8th and Market, which would be the total absence of feeling. When I compare the Athenaeum to a lot of architecture that we build today, I feel we’ve dumbed down the palette and created buildings intended to be timeless but that don’t transport you anywhere.

NATHANIEL: But contemporary architects have to deal with an extraordinary number of constraints. You have to satisfy the function of the building and contemporary aesthetic instinct — which is confusing because no one knows what that is. You also have to consider sustainability, budget, and maybe a site that’s difficult to work with. I think in many cases the architect is doing an admirable job trying to balance those things. Read more »

Hugh Newall Jacobsen’s Meadowbrook Home Hits Market for the First Time

In 1998, Hugh Newell Jacobsen designed Life Magazine’s dream house. In the early ’80s, he designed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Martha’s Vineyard manse. Somewhere in between (in 1988), he designed Meadowbrook’s four-bedroom “Village of One’s Own.” Now, 16 years later, it’s on the market for the first time.

The eminent American architect has a modernist style and describes his influences as coming from “vernacular architecture of the American homestead.” Vernacular architecture prizes using local materials to meet local and regional needs. Jacobsen’s residential designs tend to center on pavilions that recall the separate outbuildings common in rural American architecture (think: barns, smokehouses, silos).

In Meadowbrook, this translates to the “Village of One’s Own,” which on the blueprint is identified as five separate pavilions. In actuality, they’re all connected through a variety of roof lines to create a single 4,500-square-foot-plus home.

Read more »

Comment of the Week: Kanye’s Arrogance May Be the Problem

kim_kanye_180“I don’t know if the snicker had as much to do with Kanye’s race as much as it had to do with his extremely long track record of arrogance. I think people were looking for a way to ridicule his visit and simply latched on to his most glaring inaccuracy, whether or not that criticism would withstand the light of day.

That being said, I think that anyone trying to remind architects that their profession is one that must inherently be attentive to the needs of the humans it is meant to serve is positive.”

-DTurner, regarding A Matter of Race?: Kanye West Used “Architect” As a Verb

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